Migrant worker bringing his son

“I don’t miss him like before. Now I’m no longer homesick and missing my kid. Now my parents meet my child every year, before I used to see him that seldom.” Haoliang, migrant worker

Haoliang has just finished his shift as security guard at the gate of Dongguan Concord Pottery in Southern China. He is meeting his wife Wang Shuqin, who also works at the factory, in the factory dining hall. Their son Shao Qian is also here – reading a comic book at the stainless steel table. It is the first time for years that he lives with his parents.

“There is a warm feeling here. I like it. The company hires nice staff that takes care of the children now and they also help with their education. So really, no more worries, my son can get a good education now and my wife and I can focus on our work without worrying for him.”

Haoliang’s son Shao Qian is 9 years old and used to live with his grandparents while his mum and dad worked in Dongguan, far from home. Typically, Chinese migrant parents who leave their children behind see their children once a year at Chinese New Year, and then just for a few days.

“My parents are like most grandparents, quite old and not really able to deal with a lively child like Shao Qian. He has changed a lot since he came here I think, he is livelier and more outgoing, but also thoughtful and well behaved. He says coming here is better than staying at home, he can study better and play better here.”

In China over 61 million children are left behind when their parents move to other parts of the country to look for work. The long-term impact for both children and parents is well documented, but family issues are seldom taken into account by companies when they try to improve worker retention, production quality and profit margins.

CCR CSR conducted a study in 2013 that showed that 80% of parents with children left behind in their home town/village felt inadequate as parents and worry about their children was listed as causing frequent errors in almost 40% of the over 1,500 migrant workers that were part of the study. Leaving your children behind with relatives or other care takers is a major concern, not just for the parents, but for the companies that hire them.

As a direct result of a training by CCR CSR on migrant parents and the impact on workers that have their children hundreds of miles away for years on end, the day care centre was started at Concord Pottery. With long term support from the brand the factory manufacture mugs for it was possible for Lake Law, the head of corporate social responsibility to convince the owners:

“We are a ceramics factory, we don’t know how to run a day care centre, so we had a lot of help when we got started. We are also a for profit company and the centre makes business sense too,” Law says. 

There is a striking labour shortage in Southern China, recruitment is a constant worry for most factories. But after the news of Concord’s nursery spread, things at this factory look a lot better.

“It was quite a sight, I opened up the gates when we started recruiting again after New Year, and there was a long queue outside,” Law says. It hasn’t happened in years.

“The day care centre makes sense financially. It is hard to put an exact dollar value to it perhaps, but with workers’ happiness, better retention rates and ease of recruitment, we feel it is worth it. And it is also the right thing to do.”

Shao Haoliang has worked for Concord Pottery for seven years. He has occasionally moved to other companies, but always returned to the pottery factory.

Having his son with him in Dongguan makes a lot of difference to Shao Haoliang.

“I don’t miss him like before. Now I’m no longer homesick and missing my kid. Now my parents meet my child every year, before I used to see him that seldom.”

Hao Liang and his wife Wang Shuqin plan to bring their youngest child to the factory as soon as he is older so he can attend the day care centre.

 “I do have a deeper sense of belonging with the company. I will definitely work here for a long time if I can now that my kids can be around. It is just as sweet and warm here as at home now and I feel at home working here.”